Category: Susan Reiter

Lourdes Lopez to be new artistic director of Miami City Ballet

April 4, 2012 | 10:00 am

Lourdes Lopez will be the new artistic director of the Miami City BalletThe imposing task of succeeding founder/artistic director Edward Villella at Miami City Ballet will go to Lourdes Lopez, the company announced Tuesday. Lopez, a former New York City Ballet principal dancer who was with that company from 1974 to 1996, is currently director of Morphoses, and was previously the executive director of the George Balanchine Foundation.

Villella, who founded the Miami troupe in 1986, announced last fall he would retire at the end of the 2012-13 season. Lopez will become artistic director as of May 1, 2013.

The selection of Lopez retains the company’s strong association with the Balanchine’s ballets, which have formed the core of its repertory, and in which the company has gained an international reputation for excellence.

“It’s clearly the rep that I know and that I love – that I’ve been an advocate of,” Lopez said from the Morphoses office in New York, hours after learning she had the job. “Their board is very interested and committed to the Balanchine rep -- as I am. I said, absolutely that would not change. But there is the possibility of introducing other works -- and certainly commissioned work. They started this year with Liam [Scarlett] and Alexei [Ratmansky], and it would be great to continue that."

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Merce Cunningham Dance Company concludes

January 1, 2012 |  6:33 pm

The troupe takes its final bows in New York City with a multifaceted ‘Event’ that featured portions of 24 dances representing five decades of the choreographer’s work.

Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Reporting from New York —The Merce Cunningham Dance Company took its final bows on New Year’s Eve, performing a multifaceted “Event” worthy of its innovative founder’s belief in the endlessly fascinating possibilities of the body in motion.

This last of six “Park Avenue Armory Events,” performed for a fiercely devoted audience of about 1,500 that included more than three dozen company alumni, dazzled with its multiplicity of perspectives as the 14-member troupe navigated among three stages placed within the armory’s 55,000-square-foot drill hall — where Cunningham’s 2009 memorial took place.

Daniel Arsham’s suspended cloud-cluster sculptures, and the reverberant newly commissioned scores by veteran Cunningham collaborators David Behrman, John King, Takehisa Kosugi and Christian Wolff, combined to generate an atmosphere of reverent celebration.

“Events,” a distinctly Cunningham innovation — flexible assemblages of excerpts and complete works — were a staple of the company’s performances for decades, often done in nonproscenium settings. This one — selected and assembled by Robert Swinston, the 30-year company veteran who had served as director of choreography — included portions of 24 Cunningham dances representing five decades. From various vantage points — including six elevated platforms that offered a panoramic perspective on all three stages — one could marvel at dances ranging from the wildly feral to the privately meditative.

Many of the dancers performed solos — some of them material they were performing for the first time. In an unusual move, a solo from the 1977 “Fractions” was interpreted by both a woman and a man — Andrea Weber and Rashaun Mitchell. The final work danced on one of the stages was “Cross Currents,” a seven-minute 1964 trio originally performed by Cunningham, Carolyn Brown and Viola Farber. Brown, whose association with the choreographer dated to 1953, was in the audience.

Each company member — representing the final group of dancers trained and selected by Cunningham — gave ample evidence of the precision, daring and mastery they had achieved through their culminating two-year Legacy Tour.

Cunningham would have appreciated the split-second choices the audience was asked to make as 21/2 hours of such demanding choreography was served up in less than an hour. When the “Event” concluded with the lights dimming as each of the three stages emptied, a roar went up and developed into a 10-minute ovation.

The dancers bowed on each stage, then collected and held hands on the central stage for repeated bows. Ultimately, they had to leave us, and with their final exit, a powerfully significant and influential era in contemporary dance had come to a close.


Merce Cunningham company dances to the end

Emotional times as the end nears for Merce Cunningham troupe

Critic's Notebook: Baryshnikov dances into the future of Merce Cunningham's work

--Susan Reiter

Photo: Members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Jamie Scott and Dylan Crossman.        Credit: Stephanie Berger Photography

NYCB Moves will step into Northridge, Santa Barbara

October 15, 2011 |  8:30 am

Tiler Peck
Growing up in Bakersfield, Tiler Peck forged a connection to George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet by taking classes with three of that company’s former ballerinas — Yvonne Mounsey, Patricia Neary and Colleen Neary. Her first love, however, was jazz dance, and it was a Broadway show rather than a commitment to ballet that initially brought Peck to New York City at age 11.

While performing in Susan Stroman's revival of “The Music Man,” Peck found her way to the School of American Ballet, which trains dancers for NYCB. The classes there helped her understand ballet in a new light — and put her on an accelerated path to the company, which she joined at 15.

“What makes the Balanchine technique so interesting is the way everything is not square and methodical. In all his choreography, it feels like there couldn’t be any other step than what he chose for that piece of music,” she said last week in New York between rehearsals as the company concluded its fall season. Now 22 and a principal dancer, she has had plenty of opportunity to put her stamp on Balanchine roles. 

Peck, admired for her effortless technical ability and instinctive musicality, will be the youngest of six diverse principal ballerinas who will appear when New York City Ballet Moves, 20-member offshoot of the 92-member troupe, performs in Santa Barbara and Northridge this week. In addition to three performances, they will offer several master classes.

Moves’ repertory is drawn from that of the main company but focuses on ballets with scores for piano and chamber ensembles.  It includes one work each by Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, the choreographers who originally shaped the company, plus five ballets created within the past 25 years — three by Peter Martins, two by Christopher Wheeldon.

Peck’s versatility will be showcased in four major performances over the Southern California dates — in “Dances at a Gathering,” Robbins’ grand yet intimate masterpiece to Chopin; “Polyphonia,” the intricate neoclassical work that announced Wheeldon’s artistic maturity; and two contrasting Martins works: “Zakouski,” a showpiece duet set to Russian musical bonbons; and “A Fool for You,” in which Peck reconnects to her jazz roots by dancing to Ray Charles.

Read the full story on New York City Ballet Moves.

— Susan Reiter

Photo: Joaquin De Luz and Tiler Peck in Ballanchine's "Dances at a Gathering." Credit: Paul Kolnik.

At Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Robert Battle era begins

May 12, 2011 | 12:03 pm

Battle Six weeks before he officially takes over as head of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Robert Battle announced his repertory plans for the company’s 2011-2012 season, as well as a new choreography laboratory “that is about process, not product” Battle emphasized Thursday morning in a spacious studio at the company’s Manhattan building.

A world premiere by Rennie Harris inspired by the stories of people living with AIDS will premiere on Dec. 1 (World AIDS Day) as part of the company’s annual five-week New York City season. The company will perform its first Paul Taylor work, his 1981 “Arden Court,” as well as Ohad Naharin’s “Minus 16.”

The New Directions Choreography Lab, which will launch in the fall, offers four emerging to mid-level choreographers seven-week residencies during which they work with dancers from the Ailey School and receive rehearsal space, stipends and the freedom to experiment without the pressure to produce a work on deadline. As a choreographer himself, Battle admitted jokingly to being “jealous” as he introduced the first four choreographers selected for the lab: Adam Barruch, Camille Brown, Joanna Kotze and Malcolm Low. Each will be paired with a “creative advisor” -– a veteran choreographer who will mentor them.

Battle, who has been artistic director designate for the last year after being selected by Judith Jamison, who had led the company since Alvin Ailey’s death in 1989, officially takes charge on July 1.

This time of transition is also marked by a significant change in the company’s 31-member roster: nine dancers are leaving when the current national tour ends on May 22.

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New York City Ballet and its dancers resolve contract dispute [Updated]

May 3, 2011 | 12:37 pm


Lengthy and tense contract negotiations between the New York City Ballet and its dancers reached a resolution at 12:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday. The dancers had been working without a contract since August.

The new two-year contract represents a victory for the company on one salary matter: no pay increases for the current year. But for the year beginning in August, the dancers will receive a 2.5% increase; they had requested a 3% raise for each year.

Joel Schaffer of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service joined the negotiations at the request of the American Guild of Musical Artists, which represents the 91 dancers, and the company, He was crucial in helping the parties reach an agreement, according to Alan S. Gordon, AGMA's executive director, who was present at the four extended negotiation sessions held in recent weeks. "The dancers were certainly angry enough to picket the [May 11 spring] gala; they've been angry for years, but things calmed down, thanks to the mediator,” Gordon said by phone Tuesday.

[Updated at 12:53 p.m. Tuesday: NYCB Executive Director Kathy Brown released this statement: "New York City Ballet has reached an agreement with its dancers that we believe is reasonable and fair and takes into account the concerns of both sides. The new contract will enable NYCB to further address some of its deficit issues, which is essential to ensuring the future of the Company. We are pleased to have resolved this negotiation, and while there is still further work to be done to lower our operating costs, we can now turn our attention to our wonderful spring season, which begins this evening."]

The ballet company is facing a $6-million deficit on its $62-million operating budget; administrative and orchestra personnel have taken salary cuts and freezes, and the company's management had cited the difficult financial situation to justify the terms it had offered for salary, overtime and illness/injury policies.

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So you think you can dance for Paul Taylor?

April 4, 2011 |  6:00 am

Dancers, this could be your chance. Any young dancer who wants to try for a spot in the four-week Summer Intensive offered by Paul Taylor’s acclaimed modern dance company can submit a video of their dancing and be considered.

Through a partnership with Talenthouse, a social media site that offers “life-changing opportunities for the creative community,” two winners will receive scholarships to the Intensive (held in New York City July 5–29) plus a $500 stipend for expenses.

Generally, dancers find their way to the Intensive through recommendations from teachers at university dance departments, often after some experience with Taylor’s choreography. But the Talenthouse competition gives dancers over 18 with all kinds of backgrounds an equal chance to get themselves noticed. They have 90 seconds to strut their stuff and make their case. “Dazzle us with your dance ability and style, or talk about your passion for dance and Mr. Taylor’s work,” the guidelines suggest.

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Royal Danish Ballet will live stream and tweet weekend's Guggenheim performances

March 18, 2011 |  9:00 am

Sylfiden_8_prt.ashx Can’t wait for the Royal Danish Ballet’s return to Southern California after a 16-year absence? This weekend you can watch a 90-minute preview online.

Before the company embarks on a cross-country tour that includes six performances at Segerstrom Center for the Arts (May 24–29), the company is offering a repertory sampler in New York on Sunday and Monday. Seats at the snug little theater where the Guggenheim Museum’s Works & Process event takes place sold out quickly, but both evenings will be livestreamed at (or on the link below).

Ten RDB principals and soloists will perform excerpts from ballets by August Bournonville, the celebrated 19th century Danish choreographer whose works have given the company its singular profile and continue to anchor its repertory –- and dominate the tour programming. The dancers will also venture into contemporary territory in “Lost on Slow” by Jorma Elo, the Finnish choreographer whose works are hot properties among ballet companies these days. (The full work is part of the Nordic Choreographers program scheduled for Segerstrom.)

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Prince targets arts education with $250,000 gift to American Ballet Theatre

February 10, 2011 |  4:30 pm

Prince is moving into arts philanthropy in a big way, with a particular focus on arts programs for the younger generation. Before he performed at New York's Madison Square Garden on Monday, the rock musician was in the arena for the announcement of three major donations, including a $250,000 gift to American Ballet Theatre for its educational programs.

"My understanding is that at the start of the current tour, he mentioned that he wanted to make some gifts in New York City," said Rachel Moore, ABT's executive director, who was present to receive an oversized check for the funds donated in the name of Prince and his backup group, the New Power Generation. Moore said that her contact with Prince's organization made clear that "their interests are in educational programs, and that's what the press conference was about. It was about the power of the arts, and helping children as being critical."

Prince has a particular awareness of ABT through Misty Copeland, an ABT soloist he sought out to perform in his 2009 "Crimson and Clover" music video (watch it above). Copeland has made her first live appearances with the musician during the current tour, performing a number in pointe shoes as her ABT schedule allows. Copeland, who joined ABT in 2000, is the company's only African American soloist.

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Is 'Black Swan' pumping up the sales for 'Swan Lake'?

January 28, 2011 |  4:15 pm


Is all the Oscar buzz and fascination with “Black Swan” -– Darren Aronofsky’s decidedly lurid look at the hermetic ballet world of classical ballet -– boosting ticket sales for live “Swan Lake” performances?

Box-office demand for New York City Ballet’s upcoming run of the ballet has proven so heavy that eight performances were not enough, and the company took the rare step of eliminating one of its mixed-repertory evenings in order to add another “Swan Lake.”


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Passing Balanchine on to the next ballet generation, in the studio and on tape

November 9, 2010 |  9:15 am


In a spacious, sunlit Lincoln Center studio on Sunday morning, two generations of New York City Ballet principal dancers met for a unique coaching session focused on a 1968 ballet by George Balanchine.

Over the course of three hours, Violette Verdy, for whom the choreographer created the lead role in "La Source," and Helgi Tomasson, who danced for Balanchine for 15 years before becoming artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet, helped Sterling Hyltin and Gonzalo Garcia understand and absorb specific details and nuances.

Having worked closely with Balanchine, they were able to explain and illuminate –- and, increasingly, demonstrate -– the choreographer's original intentions to dancers who recently learned and performed "La Source" as it has been handed down through several decades.

Sunday’s session, with its illuminating demonstrations of the finer points of choreographic shading and emphasis, will soon have an impact beyond the two dancers who were its beneficiaries and the handful of observers who were present. It was digitally taped by the George Balanchine Foundation for the Interpreters Archive, an ongoing series. The edited tapes for each ballet, which include an extended interview with the veteran dancers who participate, are available to dancers and scholars in 70 libraries worldwide. (In California, the collection is available at UC Irvine, Moorpark Community College, UC Berkeley. Sacramento Ballet and the San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum.) In addition to New York, taping sessions have taken place in San Francisco, Washington and Los Angeles, where in 2008 Yvonne Mounsey coached Melissa Barak in the formidable role of the Siren in Balanchine’s "Prodigal Son."

In "La Source," set to a score by Léo Delibes, Balanchine drew on Verdy's sophisticated, subtle musical awareness and effervescent wit to create a contemporary tutu ballet that alludes to 19th century French romantic ballet tradition. It is a notably demanding work -– there are two extended pas de deux as well as two solos for each principal. For today's young dancers, often called on to perform the hyper-extended extremes of new choreography, the delicacy and refinement of "La Source" may not be second nature. Verdy and Tomasson (who performed the lead male role with her frequently) observed and conferred, and often demonstrated.

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